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Words to Say at a Funeral

One of life's saddest occasions is the passing of a loved one. It's all the more challenging when you've been asked to give the eulogy. It's hard to avoid being trite, because after all, everything that could be said has probably already been said. What are the right words to express how much the person meant while they were here?

We can help. We at YourDictionary have brought together words of condolence, plus an example eulogy, to help you through this challenging time.

Finding the Right Words for a Funeral

What to say at a funeral? It may surprise you, but it isn't difficult to find the words if you let your sentiment and memory be your guide. You are simply a guest at the funeral, and you've come to pay your final respects. What can you do or say to provide comfort and solace to the family?

The best thing to do is to express your condolences as simply as possible. Consider these examples.

  • If you knew the deceased: "I'm so very, very sorry. They were such a wonderful person."

  • If you knew the person in a specific context, say as a teacher or a coach: "They meant so much to me, especially when I was younger. I use their lessons to this day."

  • If you knew the person through someone else, say as a friend of your family: "They meant so much to our family. They were always there for us."

  • If you were close to the deceased for a while, then lost touch: "Thank you for inviting me. We hadn't been in touch for awhile, but they've always been in my heart."

  • If you knew the person more distantly than that - for instance, if you're there to support a friend with whom the deceased was close: "My friend has had nothing but good things to say about [name of deceased]. They had a huge impact on their life."

Shake hands, give a hug, and show your support. You absolutely cannot go wrong by keeping it simple! It may seem callous, but it helps to remember that the loved ones of the deceased probably aren't going to remember many of the specifics of what you say or do. They'll just remember you were there. That's what matters.

Words for a Eulogy

What do you say if you're asked to get up in front of the mourners and say something about the loved one? Should you write something down first, and read it off the paper? Or should you just "wing it"? There are good arguments to be made for both sides of that discussion.

Even if you plan to improvise and speak from the heart - and there's nothing wrong with that - you may want to write up a few memories or phrases to include. A keyword outline is a good place to start. The beauty of this approach is that it's natural and your words will be from the heart. At the same time, since you've got some key points written down, you won't suddenly draw a blank and come to the dreaded "uhhh… uhhhh..." moment of public speaking.

So, can you just write a speech and deliver it? Of course. However, recognize that reading off a piece of paper can sound cold and stilted. You don't want the memories of your eulogy to sound as if you were reading a term paper.

What to Say in a Eulogy

Put together a few anecdotes, a few recollections of fun times with the deceased, and the times you had that were funny and memorable. Anything that humanizes the loved one and opens the door to the mourners' fond memories of their life will be very well received.

What to Avoid Saying

Now is not the time to recall any family feuds or angry moments. Also avoid any off-color stories, no matter how funny you may think they are. This is true even if you think the deceased would have laughed. You want to sound natural and warm, but there's a point where being "too familiar" can put people off.

Example Eulogy

While every eulogy should be personal and specific to the recently deceased, seeing an example can help with where to start. Read this:

Kris was one of the best people I've ever known. I've always thought of her as a role model, and I know many people here felt the same way. In one way or another, lots of us have thought in our lives, "What would Kris do?" That's Kris's legacy, I think, that so many of us will remember her as an inspiration in our lives.

Even for those of us who didn't know Kris well, she always put herself forward to engage and help. If we were in need, she was the first to offer help. When I lost my last job, Kris came to the house that very day with Chinese takeout and two bottles of wine. Until then, we had only known each other through Daniel. That's the kind of person she was. If you were hurting, she was there to help.

That might be the best way to remember Kris. If she were here right now, she might be bawling, but she'd also be looking after the needs of every last one of us. Now we only have her example, so we have to take care of each other.

Last Words

When it comes to eulogies and simple conversation at a funeral, the anticipation is almost always worse than the event. Feelings run high. In the end, though, you're all there for the same purpose: to pay your respects to someone who mattered to you. As long as you keep your focus on the life and character of the deceased, you'll do the departed the justice they deserve.

For more help with this challenging task, take a look at our comforting words at time of death. If you're in need of some solace of your own, try our quotes about death for some high-minded help.

Words to Say at a FuneralWords to Say at a Funeral

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